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Despite what appeared to be the Obama Campaign s strategy it was perhaps inevitable that the ascendance of an African American to the status of presumptive major party presidential nominee would lay bare the issues of race and social class in America Indeed U S Senator Barack Obama had avoided speaking publicly about race for so long that some in the political press had dubbed him the country s first post racial candidate In March 2008 however as the long primary contest against former First Lady Hillary Clinton dragged on race suddenly leapt to the forefront of the national political dialogue At issue was Obama s twenty year relationship with Jeremiah Wright the longtime pastor of Chicago s Trinity United Church of Christ When video footage surfaced in which Wright among other pronouncements appeared to suggest that the United States had brought upon itself the terrorist attacks of 11 September ...


Jennifer Jensen Wallach

minister, civil rights activist, and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. An Alabama native, Abernathy was one of twelve children born to successful farmers who had managed to rise from sharecropping to owning a five-hundred-acre farm. Abernathy's father was a deacon in a local church, and from a young age Abernathy wanted to join the ministry. He became an ordained Baptist minister in 1948. In 1950 he received a BS in mathematics from Alabama State University. He began what became a career in political activism while in college by leading demonstrations to protest the poor quality of food in the campus cafeteria and the lack of heat and hot water in campus housing. While in college he became interested in sociology, and he earned an MA in the subject from Atlanta University in 1951.

Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery ...


Kerima M. Lewis

The African American members of the First Baptist Church in New York City withdrew their membership in 1808 when they were subjected to racially segregated seating. With Ethiopian merchants they organized their own church, called “Abyssinian” after the merchants’ nation of origin. The church was located at 44 Anthony Street, and the Reverend Vanvelser was its first pastor. Abyssinian numbered three hundred members in 1827 when slavery ended in New York. The Reverends William Spellman, Robert D. Wynn, and Charles Satchell Morris served as pastors during the church's early history. By 1902 the church was a renowned place of worship with more than sixteen hundred members.

The appointment of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in 1908 ushered in a new era of the church's history. His pastorate was devoted to spiritual and financial development. In 1920 he acquired property in Harlem and then oversaw the building ...


Amar Wahab

Mission to provide shelter to the black poor in Liverpool. In the midst of economic depression, spreading poverty, and growing racism, the African Churches Mission was opened in Liverpool in 1931 by Pastor Daniels Ekarte. Funded by the Church of Scotland, the Mission became a meeting point for many in need. Moreover, it became a refuge for Liverpool's black community in the face of worsening poverty and deprivation. It was the site from which Pastor Ekarte himself politicized around issues of racial inequality.

The Mission also provided shelter to those in need including families affected by the air raids as well as stowaways and homeless people Pastor Ekarte was heavily involved in raising funds to address humanitarian concerns He was helped by many of the women who provided secretarial and bookkeeping assistance and who also did the cooking and housekeeping The Mission also played a critical role in ...


Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...


James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...


Matthew Dennis

The inescapable culmination of life is mortality, and every community must deal with the death of its members, marking the event appropriately, disposing respectfully of mortal remains, offering condolence to the living, and returning life among survivors to normal. Few human communities have faced greater challenges in this regard than those African Americans enslaved in North America, as well as free blacks, during the colonial and early national periods. African American mortuary practices preserved, synthesized, and reworked African traditions and adapted New World customs imported to America by white European Christian colonists.

There is much about which we cannot be certain given the limited records and archaeological evidence available to us and considerable diversity characterized the people of African descent throughout North America during this era But it is clear that African American funerals and interments were creative hybrid practices expressions of African American culture that signaled the worth and ...


Alice Bernstein

minister, schoolteacher, and civil rights leader, was born in Manning, Clarendon County, South Carolina, the seventh of thirteen children of Tisbia Gamble DeLaine and Henry Charles DeLaine, a pastor at Liberty Hill African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

The family owned farmland, which they worked to keep food on the table, and the children walked miles to a rundown segregated school. When he was fourteen, while walking to school, DeLaine shoved a white boy who had accosted his sister. After this incident was reported to his school's principal, DeLaine ran away to escape punishment of twenty-five lashes, which a school authority was compelled to administer. He spent four years in Georgia and Michigan working as a laborer and attending night school, returning to Manning in 1916. DeLaine worked his way through college and in 1931 earned a BA from Allen University in Columbia South Caroliana where ...


Peter Hudson

The Episcopal Church was first introduced to the slave populations of the British colonies in the New World during the 1620s. The largely Anglican planter class of the British colonies of Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas debated the value of baptizing the children of African slaves and providing them with religious instruction. The more pious planters did Christianize their slaves, though others refused to do so, fearing that it would lead to slaves losing their status as property on either moral or legal grounds. Through the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts—an Anglican evangelical organization dedicated to bringing the gospel to blacks and Native Americans—many slaves received a Christian education. The Church of England also founded the first schools for blacks and trained the first African American missionaries.

In 1787 following independence for the United States Americans split from the Church of England and ...


The Inland Empire (which 27,000 square miles of Riverside and San Bernardino counties) has long sat in Los Angeles's historical shadow. In 1983 scholar Byron Skinner produced Black Origins in the Inland Empire, which was one of the first academic books to investigate the region. Skinner's work explored the lived experiences of African Americans who had made their way—both voluntarily and in bondage—to the region. In addition Quintard Taylor's In Search of the Racial Frontier (1998) helped to put the Inland Empire in the larger context of the American West and scrutinized racial fluidity throughout the region. Although local history books have been published, there is still so much more to explore, especially in regard to the people of color who inhabited the region before and after statehood.


Trevor Huddleston was ordained a priest in 1937 and entered the Community of the Resurrection Anglican order before being sent to South Africa in 1943. As deacon of the Anglican Missions of Sophiatown and then Orlando (outside of Johannesburg), Huddleston witnessed and protested against the injustices of apartheid. When the Native Resettlement Act of 1954 called for the destruction of Sophiatown to make way for a white suburb, he became chairperson of the Western Areas Protest Committee to support the blacks in defense of their homes. Despite his actions, Sophiatown was bulldozed in 1955 and the black residents were relocated to the black township of Soweto. Huddleston recorded the plight of Sophiatown in his 1956 book Naught for Your Comfort a condemnation of South Africa s policy of persecution He also worked with the African National Congress ANC to help bring about the Freedom Charter the ANC s ...


David Michel

activist and denominational leader, was born Theodore Judson Jemison, the son of David Vivian Jemison, a Baptist minister, and Henrietta Hillips Jemison in Selma, Alabama. He earned a BS from Alabama State University (1940) and a BD from Virginia Union University (1945). He was later awarded the MA in Psychology by New York University. In August 1945 Jemison married Celestine Catlett, and from this union three children were born.

In 1945 Jemison took over the pastorate of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Staunton Virginia Four years later he transferred to Baton Rouge s Mount Zion First African Baptist Church where he would remain for the rest of his career One of his first acts was to drop African from the name of the church because it connoted racial exclusivism At the time the church had only 300 members The new pastor ...


Sara Bagby

Baptist minister, and activist, was born in Mashulaville, Mississippi, to Allen and Julia (Ruth) Jernigan. He married Willie A. Stennis on 15 October 1889, with whom he had four children: Lottie R., Rosabell, Gertrude J., and Mattie. He married a second wife upon the death of the first. Jernigan attended school at Meridian Academy, and then taught in the public schools for five years. Jernigan received a BA degree from Jackson College in Mississippi.

In 1906, Jernigan became the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, where he served until 1912. Jernigan actively opposed the institution of Jim Crow laws dictating segregation in the newly formed state of Oklahoma in 1907. As a result of Jernigan and others' efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case of Quinn v. United States in 1915 to outlaw the ...


Jennifer R. Lyons

African Americans identify strongly with the Exodus narrative. The prominent black author James Baldwin wrote in Commentary magazine, “The Negro identifies himself almost wholly with the Jews … the more devout Negro considers that he is a Jew, in bondage to a hard taskmaster and waiting for Moses to lead him out of Egypt.” In response to social, economic, and political oppression following Reconstruction, African Americans such as William S. Crowdy, William Henry Plummer, and Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew altered their Christian religious affiliation and embraced Judaism instead Theirs was a brand of Judaism quite different and sometimes opposed to the religious practices of European Jewish immigrants These men and their followers turned toward Judaism as a means by which to reject the religious tradition of the largely Christian white populace who had not only enslaved them but also subjugated them to inferior positions following the Civil ...


Cheryl Dudley

religious leader and civil rights activist, was born in DeRidder, Louisiana, to the Reverend David Jesse Jones and Daisy Jones. The Reverend Jones was the pastor of two churches in Louisiana: Sweet Home Baptist and Mount Calvary Baptist. Daisy Jones was a homemaker. Growing up in a spiritual environment pointed young Edward toward the religious community, where he believed he was destined to accomplish great things. He attended elementary and secondary school in DeRidder and aspired to earn a college degree to prepare him for a career in teaching and religious service.

Edward Jones graduated from Grambling State University with a BS in Elementary Education in 1952. During his freshman year there, he met his future wife, Leslie M. Alexander. The couple dated through college and married on 31 August 1952 They went on to have two daughters two sons and nine grandchildren as of ...


Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which was founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s maternal grandfather. King, Jr., was ordained as a Baptist minister at age eighteen.


Manfred Berg

Baptist minister and civil rights leader. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most famous and revered African American of the twentieth century. All over the world, his life and legacy epitomize the black struggle for freedom and equality. The years from King's emergence as a civil rights leader during the 1955–1956 Montgomery, bus boycott until his violent death on 4 April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, are widely considered as the crucial period of the civil rights movement, when the Jim Crow system was dismantled by nonviolent direct action and mass protest. In public memory, his martyrdom has made King into a larger-than-life figure. However, his elevation to the status of a worldly saint has often inhibited a clear understanding of his contribution to the black struggle. Despite four decades of research on virtually every aspect of his life, the debate over King's historical significance continues.

Primary Source

Archbishop John Joseph Hughes (1779–1864) oversaw the explosive growth of the Catholic population of New York in the nineteenth century, fueled by the influx of Irish immigrants. At the same time, a growing community of African American Catholics sought access to the newly established schools and other institutions, only to find the same discrimination practiced in Protestant-dominated public schools. In a letter written to Pope Pius IX, a woman named Harriet Thompson describes the situation, while pleading for intervention from Rome. At the time, the church was considering establishing a nuncio in the United States, and Thompson, along with the twenty-six other signers of the letter, hoped that this would be an opportunity for the Pope to learn of the situation facing Catholic African Americans. But their efforts were slow to have any effect, as evidenced by the Archbishop’s continued opposition to abolitionism.


Thomas E. Carney

In 1950 the American Lutheran Church's Board of American Missions argued that its forefathers in early America either had opposed slavery or had had nothing to do with it. To support this position, the church board listed a number of facts: only a few Lutherans were in early America, the Lutherans—Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians—came from non-slave-trading nations, in 1790 only 3 percent of Germans owned slaves, and the American Lutheran Church had no organized effort to evangelize blacks until 1877. Thereafter, little was written about the relationship between the American Lutheran Church and blacks in early America, but there is a much more sophisticated story to be told.

The institutional Lutheran Church first appeared in North America with the establishment of the colony of New Sweden in the Delaware River valley in 1638 The colony however did not last long as it was seized by the Dutch in ...


Terry D. Goddard

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the Methodist Church and African Americans. The first article provides a discussion of the topic from the colonial period to the antebellum era, while the second article discusses the topic through the nineteenth century.]